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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Jabuka was the fourteenth of the operettas of the young Johann Strauss, written for Vienna’s Apple Festival. Its weakness lies in the libretto, but this excellent Naxos recording, made in Brno, brings out its distinctive qualities, which suggest a similarity with the operetta-writing of Lehár, Strauss’s successor. So the drinking sextet clearly anticipates the Merry Widow, as does the reliance above all on ensembles rather than arias. The chorus work on this set is not just incisive but often very delicate. Recommended



Christopher Williams
Fanfare, August 2008

The peculiar excellence of Johann Strauss lies in that he never accepted secondary status as a purveyor of "popular music," investing even musical trifles with delicacy, taste, and as much craft as any of his "serious" contemporaries. That fact alone renders the almost total neglect of most of his 16 completed operettas inexplicable. ...The present recording attempts to restore one of his later operettas, Jabuka ("The Apple Festival"). ...It is certainly valuable then that a recording of this work, a significant entry in the Strauss canon, exists. . .



Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, February 2008

"This recording is supposed to be of the complete operetta. It doesn’t say anywhere in the notes but I suspect that there is some spoken dialogue between numbers, to carry the plot forward. If so, it is omitted. This doesn’t matter too much. What counts is the music and it is, by and large, out of Strauss’s top drawer. There is no overture but instead a festive prelude with chorus. Then follows a string of pearls of rousing and beautiful melodies. The entr’acte before act III is a delicious piece and later in the act there is a sensitive quartet."

"The European Johann Strauss Orchestra doesn’t really exist. It was assembled specially for this recording and its core comprises players from the Brno Symphony Orchestra, who are well attuned to Strauss’s music. They are reinforced by musicians from both Austria and Hungary. The Gaudeamus Choir is a permanent body with members from the universities and other schools in Brno. They have 45 members but I wonder if they too have hired extras. The singing and playing is constantly impressive and Christian Pollack, a real authority on Strauss, leads the proceedings with drive and refinement."

"The soloists are never less than fully inside their roles, even though there are no star performances, but this is, as I have already mentioned, primarily an ensemble opera. The bass Michael Schober as Mischa is the best of the bunch and Franz Födinger is a lively and expressive Joschko."

"As a “filler” (46:09) to CD 2 we get seven dance arrangements from the operetta. Of these the only arrangement made by the composer is that of the waltz Ich bin dir gut! It is also the best of them. Most of the other pieces were arranged for piano by other people and orchestrated by Christian Pollack."

For lovers of Viennese orchestral music this is a real treat. All of these numbers have been released before and are culled from Marco Polo’s extensive Johann Strauss series. The booklet has informative notes by Strauss scholars. There is also a detailed track-related synopsis. The sound is excellent – in the operetta, that is. Some of the orchestral pieces of the filler are more variable but fully acceptable.

Operetta lovers – I hope I’m not the only survivor – should jump at the opportunity to add an “unknown” Johann Strauss operetta to their collections.



Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, January 2008

"...The best element of this set is the orchestral dances derived from the operetta. Jabuka is diverting, but it isn’t a patch on Strauss’s more famous operettas. Stick to Die Fledermaus and The Gipsy Baron if you want Strauss on the stage. This recording plugs a gap, however, and we should be grateful to Naxos for continuing to do such excellent work in expanding the repertory. Buy it for the dance arrangements: you’ll be whistling them long past New Year."



David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2007

Though he was Vienna’s unrivalled waltz king, Johann Strauss craved for acknowledgement as the greatest composer of operetta. That he once reached that objective with Die Fledermaus only inflamed the situation , and while he also enjoyed lasting success with Der Zigeunerbaron and Eine Nacht in Venedig, much else quickly dropped from the international repertoire. That was certainly the fate of the six stage works written in the last decade of his life, Strauss seemingly misguided or just downright foolish in his choice of libretti, Jabuka being a perfect example. Yet at its first performance in October 1894 it was the crowning jewel in fiftieth anniversary of Johann’s artistic debut. Jabuka (The Apple Festival) marks the time of the year when boys arrive and each is given an apple which they bite and offer to the girl of their choice. If she bites it and hands it back a match has been made, a situation that here does not work out for Mirko when his chosen girl, Jelka, does not respond. So starts the improbable story with the main characters celebrating the Apple Festival transported to Mirko’s castle which they think is a local inn. It gets increasingly complicated but ends happily with the young men all having the girls of their choice. It seems to have had Strauss in two minds, never quite knowing whether he wanted to write an opera or an operetta. Getting the story in motion finds him in operatic mode, but in the second act the old operetta magic returns, the duet between Annita and Vasil - two subsidiary lovers - being one of his irresistible melodies. But a silly story really needed more silly music. The idea to stage this rare Strauss operetta came about as part of the European Johann Strauss Stage Works Festival in 2003, this studio recording following the festival. It  is an enthusiastic cast, led by the weighty soprano voice of Veronika Groiss as Jelka, while the highly experienced Franz Fodinger is admirable in the humorous couplets for the devious Joschko. The young tenor, Wolfgang Veith, and mezzo, Elisabeth Wolfbauer, are particularly good as two of the lovers. The student Czech choir offer enthusiasm but never sound like an operetta chorus, and the orchestra, mainly from the Brno Symphony, gives unstinting and idiomatic support. Holding the whole thing together is the great Strauss conductor, Christian Pollack. The second disc is completed with seven dance arrangements that Strauss and others extracted from the operetta. Those performances have previously appeared in Marco Polo’s complete Strauss edition. A rarity that Strauss lovers are going to snap up at this attractive price.






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8:53:50 AM, 24 July 2014
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